This is the Bergisches Land - DRG's trip to Remscheid-Lennep

DRG-employees: Anne-Katrin Hennig, Janosch Kuno, Hans-Georg Stavginski and Sandra Ermisch in front of Röntgen's birthplace (from left to right)

In a small house in the old town of Remscheid-Lennep (today numbered Gänsemarkt 1) Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was born on March 27, 1845. The building is typical for the construction type in that region. Although Röntgen only lived here for the first years of his life, the spirit of the great scientist is still present in his native town: There is Lennep’s town church, for example, where little Wilhelm Conrad was baptized, or the Röntgen Museum that presents the differing implementation of radiology in innumerous fields of science. Remscheid-Lennep is therefore worth a visit and without a doubt the X-Ray-capital.

On a tropical summer day in July we set off from Berlin Central Station in a westward direction to the Bergisch Land, 500 kilometers away from Berlin. Bergisch Land describes the region around the cities Wuppertal, Solingen and Remscheid. Four hours later we arrive in Wuppertal. We take the local train “Abellio S 7”, a modern and fully air-conditioned train and ride about half an hour across the beautiful countryside until we get off at Remscheid-Lennep station where we start our walk through the nice old-town. The trail passes through tiny, calm alleys along the characteristic Bergisch housing. We see half-timbered architecture at its finest: green shutters, facades covered with slates in various patterns, which remind us of fish scales. A cat sleeps on a bench in the shade and sometimes a resident passes by. And then there it is – Röntgen’s birthplace.

Small cute houses in the home of Röntgen: Remscheid-LennepSmall cute houses in the home of Röntgen: Remscheid-LennepWe have arranged a meeting with Dr. Uwe Busch, director of the German Röntgen Museum and Sophie and Christof Welke, the architects who are in charge of the restoration of the house. They explain the current situation of the construction works to us  and we discuss applications for funding. We talk about advertisement ideas for the time when the renovation  will continue, or respectively, will be finished.

As an employee or member of the German Röntgen Society the sight of the house is quite familiar: everybody has heard of it – whether during the charity run in May 2015, at the birthplace booth at the society’s congress,  the European Congress of Radiology in Vienna in March 2015 or as the “leading character” in the fundraising-spot "Röntgen - An X-Ray Journey". But now, as we stand in front of the building and then walk through the rooms, it is totally different: we have the opportunity to experience the spirit of the house and to pay attention to all the details in and around the birthplace.

In the cellar, for example, meat hooks still hang from the ceiling –  remains from a butchery, based in the house until 1963, which also installed the shop windows and the annex. On some walls in the rooms you can still spot several layers of patterned wallpaper which reflect the different periods that the house has witnessed during 170 years after Röntgen's birthday.

The list of challenges is long for the German Röntgen Society: Until Röntgen’s birthplace can be named in the same breath with other famous restored birthplaces like those of Bach, Luther, and Beethoven, it is a long way to go. "At the moment we are waiting for the approval of funding applications, but this is only a question of time," says Uwe Busch. Then the construction works will continue at full speed: "The windows have to be renewed, because the frames are still from the 1970s. Moreover, the restoration of the staircase is urgent. It was already built when Wilhelm Röntgen lived here," Christof Welke proudly explains. “The facade also has to be restored: "The slate plates are loose to some extent and they need to be replaced.”

The Röntgen Museum is our last stop in Lennep.  Uwe Busch shows us the large complex with exhibits covering more than a century of X-Ray-history: a replica of the Würzburg laboratory, a radiological photo machine, and a copy of a tuberculosis-van (even mourning and coughing can be heard from the inside) – the museum really leaves a mark. 

In the late afternoon we head back home after having developed many ideas for the future opening of Röntgen’s birthplace. And who knows: in a few years, the beautiful town of Lennep will hopefully become a magnet for people from all over the world who want to find out more about the place where the discoverer of the X-Rays was born.